By Gordon Govier

The Culture of Chapter Planting

What would happen if the creativity, vision, energy and passion of this generation was unleashed to reach the University?  

In 2012, InterVarsity held the first Ambition conference to inspire both staff and students by hearing from some of the world's leading thinkers on planting ministries, such as Alan Hirsch, a leader in the missional church community.  "It was a powerful catalyst for our movement" said Shawn Young, who serves as National Director of Chapter Planting.  "I'm still hearing from staff and students who tell me Ambition is where they were inspired to plant a new chapter, reach a new network on campus, join InterVarsity staff or some other ministry." 

Ambition Conference 2015 will be held in Tampa, Florida, January 15-18, 2015. InterVarsity staff, students, and faculty will gather to learn new perspectives and new innovations in chapter planting. 

Culture Revived

There’s no question that the culture of chapter planting, and along with it evangelism, has been revived in InterVarsity:  the number of chapters grew by 40 in the past year, and new professions of faith were almost double what they were just ten years ago. "The first Ambition conference was significant because it galvanized us around a fresh new vision for planting," Shawn said. "But this time we're poised for something more--something historic.  I really believe Ambition 2015 is going to be the turning point that gets us to 1000 campuses."

Alee GeorgeAlee George and Andi Schuerman were friends who attended the first Ambition in 2012. Both had been core members of the chapter plant at Creighton University.  Alee was a volunteer, weighing whether or not to come on staff with InterVarsity. Andi was still a senior at Creighton.

“I wasn't sure if attending a planting conference would help clarify things – hah,” Alee said. Her vision for campus ministry was clarified and she felt empowered to become a leader in campus ministry.

“My favorite thing at Ambition was dreaming BIG with students and other staff about how God might use us to reach the campus.  What would change if we took Alan Hirsch's words to heart and saw every student as a potential orchard, waiting to be planted?  I came to Ambition uncertain of how God wanted to use my voice in His global mission and left with a vision for sharing the gospel in unreached corners of my campus.”

Campus Mission in a New Light

Andi saw mission in a completely new light after Ambition 2012. “Mission was no longer something I did because it was a good thing, mission was about who God is,” she said. “Ambition challenged me to pursue our missional God to the places his Spirit is moving and come alongside of the work he is already doing.”

Andi SchuermanAlee is now planting a Greek chapter at Creighton and Andi is planting an ISM chapter at a college in St. Louis. Both continue to draw on their Ambition experience to maintain their campus ministry. “I fell in love with the sacrificial/strategic/faithful/fun/apostolic picture of life spent as a radical world changer that the other students, staff, and Tampa Underground community painted beautifully all weekend,” Alee said. “It's a picture that I try to live out on a daily basis and one that I am continually aiming to model for my students.  The teaching there shaped my ministry philosophy, but the community shaped my heart!” 

Empowering Students

Andi added, “Being on staff and following God’s call onto campus is so much more than inviting students to the events I plan and the Bible studies I want to lead. It's about empowering students to lead others in their sphere of influence on the campus to release God's Spirit and start a movement that is much larger than anything I could do on my own.”

"We believe every Christian on campus has the potential to start something new that extends God's kingdom," Shawn said. "We don't think of students as sheep to be gathered; they're seeds to be scattered." For more information on the Ambition conference go to